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4/16/12

EQUITY STUDY: NO GENDER GAP IN RESOURCES AT OHIO STATE, BUT WOMEN IN SCIENCES STILL FACE SOME HURDLES

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Academic leaders at The Ohio State University fairly distribute economic and material resources to male and female faculty in the sciences, but the workplace culture remains less satisfying for women than for men in many departments, according to a report released today (4/16).

The report outlines results of two studies conducted under an initiative called Project CEOS, or Comprehensive Equity at Ohio State, which is funded by a $3.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The initiative is intended to increase the presence and success of women at all faculty ranks and in faculty leadership positions across the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

According to the first study, four conditions of employment - salary, laboratory space, startup funding and teaching loads - are equitably distributed among men and women in STEM fields at Ohio State. A second study of faculty finds that male and female faculty are equally satisfied about these areas of their employment as well.

Joan Herbers

The second study also, however, suggests that when it comes to overall satisfaction about the workplace environment, persistent gender gaps remain. In particular, the results revealed striking differences among men and women in satisfaction with their personal relationships and workload.

“We were pleased to see that Ohio State does a good job on equal access to resources for men and women faculty in STEM. That’s an important and encouraging starting point,” said Joan Herbers, principal investigator for the grant and professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology. “A big part of our CEOS initiative is tackling the difficult culture issues that continue to affect women in STEM not just here at Ohio State, but at many other institutions. We needed these data to make appropriate recommendations to improve the workplace environment.”

Recommendations made in the report to deans and department chairs include:

  • ensuring that access to resources remains equal;
  • helping female faculty by supporting their involvement in interdisciplinary teams, ensuring they receive appropriate mentoring and fostering leadership development;
  • soliciting help in identifying patterns of behavior that impede retention of women faculty;
  • designating “action learning teams” to study local culture and improve workplace satisfaction for all faculty; and
  • considering special programs to support career development for women associate professors in STEM, who reported the most stress among the population studied.

“If we are to become a truly eminent public research university, we must continue to look objectively at ourselves and commit to improving the culture so that all of our faculty have what they need to succeed, including a supportive work environment,” said Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee.

The full report, titled “Women STEM Faculty at Ohio State: Resource Allocation and Department Climate,” appears online here: http://ceos.osu.edu

Participating units in Project CEOS are the Division of Natural and Mathematical Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, and the colleges of Engineering and Veterinary Medicine.

Herbers and CEOS Research Director Anand Desai, a professor in the John Glenn School of Public Affairs, led the two committees that conducted this research. For the first study, researchers collected data from numerous university units to analyze the conditions of employment in these STEM areas. They found no statistical gender differences in salary, startup funds, lab space square footage and teaching loads.

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“We were pleased to see that Ohio State does a good job on equal access to resources for men and women faculty in STEM. That’s an important and encouraging starting point.”


For the second study, the research group accessed Faculty Survey data from 2008 and 2011. This survey, first conducted in 2008, consisted of 75 questions about various aspects of university life to provide information on faculty satisfaction with a wide range of work-related issues. In 2008, 289 CEOS-eligible faculty responded, with 324 participating in 2011. For the purposes of this study, the researchers focused on questions related to access to resources, professional relationships, workload and stress, and retention.

The largest gender gap in faculty satisfaction with relationships related to informal networks. In both rounds of the survey, more women than men reported feeling excluded from these networks in their departments. Similar responses were reported about opportunities for collaboration.

Three-quarters of CEOS women faculty reported feeling stressed by their workload in 2011, which was higher than female colleagues in other colleges and much higher than men throughout the university. About half of all male faculty in CEOS colleges also expressed dissatisfaction with their workload.

Less stark differences were seen in other areas, but women also reported less satisfaction than men with regard to professional relationships with peers and social relationships with colleagues. In 2011, almost three-fourths of women in CEOS colleges reported feeling under-appreciated by their colleagues, compared to a little more than a third of men.

Herbers noted that this report adds to the academic literature on the status of women in STEM at research universities. A 1999 analysis at MIT was the first to systematically examine salaries and lab space, and an update was released last year. Other universities have conducted their own studies, but Ohio State’s is the first to link access to resources with job satisfaction, she said.

When the CEOS initiative was launched in 2009, specific goals included retaining to promotion and tenure all of the current female assistant professors in STEM disciplines; achieving 30 percent representation by women among the 80 faculty hires anticipated over the next five years in the participating colleges; hiring at least six new faculty who are either African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American or Native-American women; appointing at least three additional women as associate deans and chairs; and increasing entrepreneurial activity by women by 50 percent.

In addition to these studies, Project CEOS consists of four programs guided by a social sciences concept called transformational leadership. This model emphasizes a group or team approach that reduces the difference in status among organization members, employs participatory decision-making and is based on a form of “facilitative” power demonstrated by leaders working with people instead of over them. The four programs include leadership training for deans and department chairs, action learning teams to develop an inclusive culture, workshops on leadership and peer-based mentoring for women leaders in STEM colleges, and targeted entrepreneurship training.

The NSF grant was awarded as part of its ADVANCE program, which was designed to develop systemic approaches to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers.

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Contact: Joan Herbers, (614) 292-5472; Herbers.4@osu.edu (Herbers is traveling through April 19 but can be reached via email.)

Written by Emily Caldwell, (614) 292-8310; Caldwell.151@osu.edu

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